2017 Aruba.it Racing Ducati Rider LineupFrom 1988 through 2011, Ducati earned 15 World Superbike titles – all on trellis-framed motorcycles. The first championship arrived in 1991 with Doug Polen aboard a Ducati 888 Desmoquattro, and the 15th in 2011 with Carlos Checa on an 1198R Testastretta.In 2013, Ducati entered its Monocoque-framed Panigale, the 1199 R powered by the new Superquadro. The Borgo Pangiale-based manufacturer struggled with the Panigale, even with Carlos Checa at the controls. In 2014, though, things began turning for the better when newly-signed Chaz Davies earned the Panigale four podiums.
Davies continued Pani progress in 2015, claiming the superbike’s first-ever WSBK win (Aragon), followed by four additional victories (double at Laguna Seca, wins at Sepang and Jerez). He finished 2015 SBK runner-up behind Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea.After nine rounds of 14 in 2016 World Superbike, the Welshman has earned 10 podiums, including four wins, and is third in points. To date, Davies has secured 32 podiums and nine wins aboard the Panigale R.With this type of performance, the Aruba.it Racing Ducati team would be wise to keep the 29-year old on the factory 1199 Panigale R – and this was confirmed Thursday by Ducati.The Aruba.it Racing Ducati team has announced that Davies will ride in 2017, but it was sort of a shocker on who would fill the other seat – Marco Melandri.The 34-year-old Italian Melandri is no stranger to Ducati; he spent the 2008 MotoGP season riding a factory GP8 next to Casey Stoner, who earned Ducati its first and only GP title in 2007. But that’s Melandri only Ducati experience – and it was rough considering he struggled, finishing 17th that season.Melandri’s last full year in World Superbike was 2014 when he finished fourth overall for Aprilia before joining Gresini Aprilia’s effort in MotoGP for 2015. Melandri failed to score a single MotoGP point on the “unrideable” RS-GP in the opening eight rounds, and left the team.But now Melandri, who has amassed 49 podiums and 19 wins after 100 starts in World Superbike, returns to SBK for 2017 with Ducati. And Melandri is now stranger to Davies; both were teammates on the Goldbet BMW SBK team in 2013.“I’m really excited to come back to racing, it’s a dream come true,” Melandri stated. “I always said I was only interested in a top bike and top team, and I could not have asked for more. I kept following WorldSBK closely, and I’m confident the Panigale R can perfectly suit my riding style,” Melandri says.“We’ll just have to take one step at a time, but the potential is surely high. I know it won’t be easy to get back up to speed, but I have all the time to step on the bike, do laps and make sure I’m ready for the first test: to this end, I will skip the holidays to train on a street version of the Panigale R.”As for Davies, he has extended his Ducati contract through 2018, his name becoming one with the Borgo Panigale brand.“I’m extremely happy to renew my professional relationship with Ducati for two more seasons,” Davies said. “The continuity element is really important in our job, and so far we’ve made great strides and got progressively closer to our goal.“Now we can fight for the win practically on every track, and I’m confident we can make further improvements. Moreover, to race for Ducati is something special: everything is done with heart and passion, you really feel part of a family and have a direct connection between the production and racing. It’s going to be exciting.”Davies current teammate, Davide Giugliano, has spent three years with the Aruba.it Racing Ducati team, earning 10 podiums. He spent most of 2015 on the sidelines due to energy.Ducati and Aruba.it said they both would like to thank Davide for his efforts, wishing him all the best for his future career and reiterating their commitment to give him the best possible tools to achieve his first WorldSBK win.“I had a great time with Ducati,” said Giugliano. “I learned a lot and was given a wealth of experience to draw upon, which is really important for a young rider. We also faced some difficult times, especially last year when I was badly injured, but we’ve always stayed close. We decided to take different paths, but our relationship remains strong: I’m still young, so we may rejoin forces in the future.“I sincerely wish Melandri the best and would like to thank everyone in Ducati, especially Paolo Ciabatti, and Aruba.it for all their support. It’s been a great journey, which has yielded great results despite the fact that we would have liked to do more, but I’ll give my best until the end of the season to achieve bigger goals.”Luigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager, also responded to the news: “Chaz Davies has become a key member of the Ducati family, so we’re happy to announce that he will ride with us for two more years. Chaz has shown great progress and we’re confident he can take our bike to even higher grounds.“In 2017, he will ride alongside Marco Melandri, who took upon the challenge with great enthusiasm. Marco is a talented rider, he has already achieved prestigious results in WorldSBK and we’re confident that the year spent without racing has not undermined his qualities. We’re obviously sad for Davide Giugliano, who will part ways with us at the end of the year, and we wish him nothing but the best.“Davide proved to have great competitiveness, taking many podiums and fastest laps, and has given a crucial input towards the development of the WorldSBK-spec Panigale R. We would like to thank him and guarantee we will give him all our support until the last race to help him achieve the results he deserves.”Stefano Cecconi, Aruba S.p.A. CEO and Team Principal, adds: “Given that the riders’ choice is among the most important and difficult to make, as the available seats are always less than what we would ideally offer, we had to resort to our ambition and courage while taking all the necessary time to finalize the 2017 line-up.“Chaz has shown he can fight for the victory each round. Davide is a young and fast rider, who can become even more competitive, so I hope it’s a ‘see you again’ and not a ‘farewell’ between us. Marco’s resume speaks for itself and puts more pressure, at any rate positive, on us: we want to help him achieve the result that, surely not due to a lack in talent, has eluded him in WorldSBK so far.”